Students race homemade boats in homecoming tradition

miguel jaime

William Winkler, radiology junior, and Sarah Guthrie, radiology senior, race to the shore in the Radiology club boat at the carboard boat race in Sikes Lake on Oct. 24. Photo by Lauren Roberts
William Winkler, radiology junior, and Sarah Guthrie, radiology senior, race to the shore in the Radiology club boat at the carboard boat race in Sikes Lake on Oct. 24. Photo by Lauren Roberts

The inexperienced sailors pushed their small boat into the glistening lake and jumped in. Seconds later they fell into the cold murky water as their boat tipped over. Kicking and splashing they tried to jump back in, but it was too late. The water already filled most of their vessel and it began to sink. One sailor swam underneath and placed both hands on its side hoping to keep it afloat, but to no avail. The once-cardboard boat had now become a cardboard submarine.

According to Mario Ramirez, Student Development and Orientation activities coordinator, this was just one boat out of about twenty-five, seventeen of which were registered organizations, that participated in this year’s homecoming cardboard boat race at Sikes Lake. Each group had to construct their own boat made entirely out of cardboard and duct tape. For the competition, they had to sail across Sikes Lake and back to win.

“The objective today is to win and to come in first place,” Coleman Reidling, sophomore in history, said as his group from Pierce Hall huddled together in a circle for a quick group meeting before the race.

“Try to ram other people’s boats too if you can,” Reidling said. “But seriously, let’s just have fun.”

Brandon Allen, sophomore in mechanical engineering, grabbed some duct tape minutes before the race and added some extra tape to “Pierce Hornor,” their black boat with decorative maroon and gold canons on each side.

“Last-minute modifications, man,” he said as he added tape to the boat which took them three hours to build.

On the far end of the starting lineup, Mathew Howard and his band of brother from Kappa Alpha also prepared for the race.

“This is my first boat race,” Howard said while wearing a small orange life jacket, a straw hat and holding a fishing pole in hand.

“We call this the coffin because we are going to bury everyone else,” he said as his group members laughed.

“It took us about seven hours and four rolls of duct tape to make this,” he said as he pointed at the brown painted boat, which they believe gave it a rusted look.

Meanwhile, as the large crowd gathered around the racers, the announcer from across the lake shouted over the speakers, “Are you ready to sink some boats!”

The crowd erupted in cheers.

With that, Howard kicked his brown painted cardboard propeller with his left leg and pulled his right arm back to simulate the ignition of a real boat.

The announcer counted down to zero and the racers took off.

Both Howard and Reidling’s group, just like more than half the racers, didn’t make it more than 15 feet before sinking.

“The waves, they just came over and capsized us, you know,” one racer said as he shouted to his group on shore.

As Howard dragged his boat back to land, he said, “I guess it buried itself,” referring to the name of his boat.

At the same time, during the tragic sinking of more than half the boats, the cycling team and the radiology club battled for first.

As they neared the finish line, the radiology club just a few feet behind the cycling team, the crowd began rhythmically chanting, “Stroke, stroke, stroke!”

Just as the cycling team approached the shore, their boat started to sway left. The radiology club, on the other hand, headed towards the finish line in a straight direction, neither group slowing down.

Both teams finished at about the same time. The cycling team took another lap to the center of the lake, believing they finished first, although the radiology club would argue differently.

Jordan Carter, sophomore in biology, said he got what he came for.

“I came to watch people sink,” he said with a big smile on his face.

“It’s so funny to watch people sink, but seriously it is a good thing to come out and show our faces as RA’s for Pierce,” Allen said.

As the race came to an end, each group dragged their soaked boat over to a nearby dump truck. With knees bent and arms raised, each group lifted their dripping cardboard boat up over their shoulders and into the truck.

Most teams left soaked in water and disappointment, but with smiles on their face for having tried and participated in this amusing tradition.